Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wordsworth still makes daffodils dance for me

Dancing with the daffodils

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

I've read this poem so many times with my students. When I first began to teach, this poem showed up in my ninth graders' literature book. I skipped it feeling I had evaluated this poem into nothingness in college and did not want to revisit it with ninth graders.

It showed up again when I began teaching college British Lit. Again I passed it over as I made selections for my syllabus. But when we read excerpts from Dorothy Wordsworth's journals and found references to the walk the two had taken that carried this image, I had to go back and reread the piece. Motion and color, brilliant sparkles and breeze dancing daffodils filled my mind. But that wasn't new, though it was fresh again for me. It was the last lines that were so suddenly telling. The image of the sea of daffodils had stuck but not the message.

Startling events, snippets of conversation, fragrances, and images come to us in those quiet moments of repose. They come alive again, thrill and move us. Writers live on these enveloping sensory memories. We can aspire to recreate them, be a Wordsworth (D or W), and leave an impression on our readers that will find a place in their quiet moments.


No comments: